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1.  Concurrent Change in Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate and Functional Performance in the Oldest Old: Results From the Cardiovascular Health Study All Stars Study 
The correlation between dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) decline and age led to the hypothesis that DHEAS might be a marker of primary aging, though conflicting data from observational studies of mortality do not support this. We evaluated concurrent DHEAS and functional decline in a very old cohort to test if DHEAS change tracks with functional change during aging.
DHEAS and functional performance (gait speed, grip strength, Modified Mini-Mental State Examination [3MSE] score, and digit symbol substitution test [DSST] score) were measured in 1996–1997 and 2005–2006 in 989 participants in the Cardiovascular Health Study All Stars study (mean age 85.2 years in 2005–2006, 63.5% women and 16.5% African American). We used multivariable linear regression to test the association of DHEAS decline with functional decline.
After adjustment, each standard deviation decrease in DHEAS was associated with greater declines in gait speed (0.12 m/s, p = .01), grip strength (0.09 kg, p = .03), 3MSE score (0.13 points, p < .001), and DSST score (0.14 points, p = .001) in women only. Additional adjustment for baseline DHEAS attenuated the association with grip strength but did not alter other estimates appreciably, and baseline DHEAS was unassociated with functional decline.
In this cohort of very old individuals, DHEAS decline tracked with declines in gait speed, 3MSE score, and DSST score, but not grip strength, in women independent of baseline DHEAS level. DHEAS decline might be a marker for age-associated performance decline, but its relevance is specific to women.
PMCID: PMC2920580  PMID: 20466773
Aging; Biomarker; Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate; Function
2.  DHEAS Levels and Mortality in Disabled Older Women: The Women’s Health and Aging Study I 
Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) is an endogenously produced sex steroid that has been hypothesized to have anti-aging effects. Low DHEAS levels are associated with mortality in older men, but the relationship between DHEAS levels and mortality in women is not clearly defined.
The relationship between serum DHEAS level and 5-year mortality was analyzed in a cohort of 539 disabled women aged 65–100 years enrolled in the Women’s Health and Aging Study I (WHAS I). Using Cox proportional hazard models, we calculated multivariate-adjusted mortality risks by DHEAS quartiles and by DHEAS continuously, allowing for a nonlinear relationship. We also examined cause-specific mortality.
We found a U-shaped relationship between DHEAS level and mortality. After adjusting for multiple covariates, women in the top and bottom DHEAS quartiles had a more than 2-fold higher 5-year mortality than did those in the middle quartiles (hazard ratio, 2.15; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.17–3.98 for the top quartile and 2.05; 95% CI, 1.27–3.32 for the bottom quartile, each compared to the third quartile). Women with higher DHEAS levels tended to have greater cancer mortality, whereas those with lower DHEAS tended to have greater cardiovascular mortality.
Disabled older women with either low or high levels of DHEAS are at greater risk for death than are those with intermediate levels. More research is needed to determine if targeted dehydroepiandrosterone supplementation would provide clinical benefit to disabled older women.
PMCID: PMC2645634  PMID: 16960027
3.  Decreased levels of dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate in severe critical illness: a sign of exhausted adrenal reserve? 
Critical Care  2002;6(5):434-438.
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and its sulphate (DHEAS) are pleiotropic adrenal hormones with immunostimulating and antiglucocorticoid effects. The present study was conducted to evaluate the time course of DHEAS levels in critically ill patients and to study their association with the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis.
Materials and method
This was a prospective observational clinical and laboratory study, including 30 patients with septic shock, eight patients with multiple trauma, and 40 age- and sex-matched control patients. We took serial measurements of blood concentrations of DHEAS, cortisol, tumour necrosis factor-α and IL-6, and of adrenocorticotrophic hormone immunoreactivity over 14 days or until discharge/death.
On admission, DHEAS was extremely low in septic shock (1.2 ± 0.8 mol/l) in comparison with multiple trauma patients (2.4 ± 0.5 μmol/l; P < 0.05) and control patients (4.2 ± 1.8; P < 0.01). DHEAS had a significant (P < 0.01) negative correlation with age, IL-6 and Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation II scores in both patient groups. Only during the acute phase did DHEAS negatively correlate with dopamine. Nonsurvivors of septic shock (n = 11) had lower DHEAS levels (0.4 ± 0.3 μmol/l) than did survivors (1.7 ± 1.1 μmol/l; P < 0.01). The time course of DHEAS exhibited a persistent depletion during follow up, whereas cortisol levels were increased at all time points.
We identified extremely low DHEAS levels in septic shock and, to a lesser degree, in multiple trauma patients as compared with those of age- and sex-matched control patients. There appeared to be a dissociation between DHEAS (decreased) and cortisol (increased) levels, which changed only slightly over time. Nonsurvivors of sepsis and patients with relative adrenal insufficiency had the lowest DHEAS values, suggesting that DHEAS might be a prognostic marker and a sign of exhausted adrenal reserve in critical illness.
PMCID: PMC130144  PMID: 12398784
adrenal insufficiency; dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate; multiple trauma; hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis; sepsis
4.  A Review of Age-Related Dehydroepiandrosterone Decline and Its Association with Well-Known Geriatric Syndromes: Is Treatment Beneficial? 
Rejuvenation Research  2013;16(4):285-294.
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and its sulfate ester are the most abundant steroids in humans. DHEA levels fall with age in men and women, reaching values sometimes as low as 10%–20% of those encountered in young individuals. This age-related decrease suggests an “adrenopause” phenomenon. Studies point toward several potential roles of DHEA, mainly through its hormonal end products, making this decline clinically relevant. Unfortunately, even if positive effects of DHEA on muscle, bone, cardiovascular disease, and sexual function seem rather robust, extremely few studies are large enough and/or long enough for conclusions regarding its effects on aging. Moreover, because it has been publically presented as a “fountain of youth” equivalent, over-the-counter preparations lacking pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic data are widely used worldwide. Conceptually, supplementing a pre-hormone is extremely interesting, because it would permit the human organism to adequately use it throughout long periods, increasing or decreasing end products according to his needs. Nevertheless, data on the safety profile of long-term DHEA supplementation are still lacking. In this article, we examine the potential relation between low DHEA levels and well-known age-related diseases, such as sarcopenia, osteoporosis, dementia, sexual disorders, and cardiovascular disease. We also review risks and benefits of existing protocols of DHEA supplementation.
PMCID: PMC3746247  PMID: 23647054
5.  Dynamics of Adrenal Steroids Are Related to Variations in Th1 and Treg Populations during Mycobacterium tuberculosis Infection in HIV Positive Persons 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e33061.
Tuberculosis (TB) remains the most frequent cause of illness and death from an infectious agent, and its interaction with HIV has devastating effects. We determined plasma levels of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), its circulating form DHEA-suphate (DHEA-s) and cortisol in different stages of M. tuberculosis infection, and explored their role on the Th1 and Treg populations during different scenarios of HIV-TB coinfection, including the immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (IRIS), a condition related to antiretroviral treatment. DHEA levels were diminished in HIV-TB and HIV-TB IRIS patients compared to healthy donors (HD), HIV+ individuals and HIV+ individuals with latent TB (HIV-LTB), whereas dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-s) levels were markedly diminished in HIV-TB IRIS individuals. HIV-TB and IRIS patients presented a cortisol/DHEA ratio significantly higher than HIV+, HIV-LTB and HD individuals. A positive correlation was observed between DHEA-s and CD4 count among HIV-TB individuals. Conversely, cortisol plasma level inversely correlated with CD4 count within HIV-TB individuals. M. tuberculosis-specific Th1 lymphocyte count was increased after culturing PBMC from HIV-TB individuals in presence of DHEA. We observed an inverse correlation between DHEA-s plasma level and Treg frequency in co-infected individuals, and CD4+FoxP3+ Treg frequency was increased in HIV-TB and IRIS patients compared to other groups. Strikingly, we observed a prominent CD4+CD25-FoxP3+ population across HIV-TB and HIV-TB IRIS patients, which frequency correlated with DHEA plasma level. Finally, DHEA treatment negatively regulated FoxP3 expression without altering Treg frequency in co-infected patients. These data suggest an enhancing role for DHEA in the immune response against M. tuberculosis during HIV-TB coinfection and IRIS.
PMCID: PMC3303789  PMID: 22431997
6.  Reduction of atherosclerosis by administration of dehydroepiandrosterone. A study in the hypercholesterolemic New Zealand white rabbit with aortic intimal injury. 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  1988;82(2):712-720.
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is an endogenous steroid that blocks carcinogenesis, retards aging, and exerts antiproliferative properties. In vitro, it is a potent inhibitor of glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase, the first committed step of the pentose phosphate pathway. In man, serum levels of DHEA and its sulfate peak in early adulthood and drop markedly with age. Epidemiologic evidence indicates that low levels of DHEA or its sulfate conjugate are linked to an increased risk of developing cancer or of death from cardiovascular disease. Like cancer, atherosclerosis is a proliferative process characterized by both initiation and promotion phases. This similarity provided a framework in which to study the antiatherogenic effects of DHEA. Rabbits were randomly assigned to four groups. Two groups of rabbits received aortic endothelial injury by balloon catheter and were fed a 2% cholesterol diet for 12 wk. DHEA, 0.5%, was incorporated into the diet of one group receiving the 2% cholesterol diet and endothelial injury and also into the diet of one of the control groups. Animals were killed after 12 wk and aortas, hearts, and livers were studied. Plasma samples were analyzed for total cholesterol, VLDL, LDL, HDL, triglycerides, DHEA, and DHEA-sulfate levels. The atherogenic insult resulted in severe atherosclerosis in animals not treated with DHEA. In those receiving DHEA there was an almost 50% reduction in plaque size (P = 0.006), inversely related to the serum level of DHEA attained. Fatty infiltration of the heart and liver were also markedly reduced. These beneficial actions were not attributable to differences in body weight gain, food intake, total plasma cholesterol or distribution of cholesterol among the VLDL, LDL, or HDL fractions. The results show that high levels of plasma DHEA inhibit the development of atherosclerosis and they provide an important experimental link to the epidemiologic studies correlating low DHEA-sulfate plasma levels with an enhanced risk of cardiovascular mortality.
PMCID: PMC303568  PMID: 2969922
7.  Cortisol and DHEA-S are associated with startle potentiation during aversive conditioning in humans 
Psychopharmacology  2005;186(3):434-441.
Fear conditioning reliably increases the startle reflex and stress hormones, yet very little is known about the effect of stress hormones on fear-potentiated startle. Cortisol and the sulfate ester of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA-S) are involved in stress and anxiety. Evidence suggests that low cortisol/DHEA-S ratio has a buffering effect on stress and anxiety in preclinical and clinical studies, suggesting that there may be a relationship between fear-potentiated startle and cortisol and DHEA-S activity.
The aim of the study was to examine whether there is a relationship between cortisol/DHEA-S ratio and fear-potentiated startle.
Thirty healthy subjects participated in a differential aversive conditioning experiment during which one of two stimuli (CS+) was paired with a shock, and the other was not (CS-). Conditioned responses were assessed with the startle reflex, defined as startle potentiation during CS+ compared to CS-. DHEA-S and cortisol levels were assayed from blood samples collected in both a baseline and an aversive conditioning session. Subjective state anxiety, arousal, and valence were assessed at various times during testing.
Fear-potentiated startle was larger in individuals with high compared to low cortisol/DHEA-S ratio. Multiple regression analyses revealed that fear-potentiated startle was positively associated with cortisol and negatively associated with DHEA-S. There was no significant correlation between DHEA-S and cortisol levels.
These data suggest that cortisol and DHEA-S are involved in fear conditioning.
PMCID: PMC2702204  PMID: 16052364
Fear conditioning; Fear-potentiated startle; Cortisol; DHEA-S; Stress; HPA
8.  Low Circulating Levels of Dehydroepiandrosterone in Histologically Advanced Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease 
Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.)  2008;47(2):484-492.
The biological basis of variability in histological progression of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is unknown. Dehydroepiandrosterone(DHEA) is the most abundant steroid hormone and has been shown to influence sensitivity to oxidative stress, insulin sensitivity, and expression of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha and procollagen messenger RNA. Our aim was to determine whether more histologically advanced NAFLD is associated with low circulating levels of DHEA. Serum samples were obtained prospectively at the time of liver biopsy in 439 patients with NAFLD (78 in an initial and 361 in validation cohorts) and in controls with cholestatic liver disease (n = 44). NAFLD was characterized as mild [simple steatosis or nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) with fibrosis stage 0–2] or advanced (NASH with fibrosis stage 3–4). Serum levels of sulfated DHEA (DHEA-S) were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Patients with advanced NAFLD had lower plasma levels of DHEA-S than patients with mild NAFLD in both the initial (0.25 ± 0.07 versus 1.1 ± 0.09 µg/mL, P < 0.001) and validation cohorts (0.47 ± 0.06 versus 0.99 ± 0.04 µg/mL, P < 0.001). A “dose effect” of decreasing DHEA-S and incremental fibrosis stage was observed with a mean DHEA-S of 1.03 ± 0.05, 0.96 ± 0.07, 0.83 ± 0.11, 0.66 ± 0.11, and 0.35 ± 0.06 µg/mL for fibrosis stages 0, 1, 2, 3, and 4, respectively. All patients in both cohorts in the advanced NAFLD group had low DHEA-S levels, with the majority in the hypoadrenal range. The association between DHEA-S and severity of NAFLD persisted after adjusting for age. A relationship between disease/fibrosis severity and DHEA-S levels was not seen in patients with cholestatic liver diseases.
More advanced NAFLD, as indicated by the presence of NASH with advanced fibrosis stage, is strongly associated with low circulating DHEA-S. These data provide novel evidence for relative DHEA-S deficiency in patients with histologically advanced NASH.
PMCID: PMC2906146  PMID: 18220286
9.  Eight Common Genetic Variants Associated with Serum DHEAS Levels Suggest a Key Role in Ageing Mechanisms 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(4):e1002025.
Dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate (DHEAS) is the most abundant circulating steroid secreted by adrenal glands—yet its function is unknown. Its serum concentration declines significantly with increasing age, which has led to speculation that a relative DHEAS deficiency may contribute to the development of common age-related diseases or diminished longevity. We conducted a meta-analysis of genome-wide association data with 14,846 individuals and identified eight independent common SNPs associated with serum DHEAS concentrations. Genes at or near the identified loci include ZKSCAN5 (rs11761528; p = 3.15×10−36), SULT2A1 (rs2637125; p = 2.61×10−19), ARPC1A (rs740160; p = 1.56×10−16), TRIM4 (rs17277546; p = 4.50×10−11), BMF (rs7181230; p = 5.44×10−11), HHEX (rs2497306; p = 4.64×10−9), BCL2L11 (rs6738028; p = 1.72×10−8), and CYP2C9 (rs2185570; p = 2.29×10−8). These genes are associated with type 2 diabetes, lymphoma, actin filament assembly, drug and xenobiotic metabolism, and zinc finger proteins. Several SNPs were associated with changes in gene expression levels, and the related genes are connected to biological pathways linking DHEAS with ageing. This study provides much needed insight into the function of DHEAS.
Author Summary
Dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate (DHEAS), mainly secreted by the adrenal gland, is the most abundant circulating steroid in humans. It shows a significant physiological decline after the age of 25 and diminishes about 95% by the age of 85 years, which has led to speculation that a relative DHEAS deficiency may contribute to the development of common age-related diseases or diminished longevity. Twin- and family-based studies have shown that there is a substantial genetic effect with heritability estimate of 60%, but no specific genes regulating serum DHEAS concentration have been identified to date. Here we take advantage of recent technical and methodological advances to examine the effects of common genetic variants on serum DHEAS concentrations. By examining 14,846 Caucasian individuals, we show that eight common genetic variants are associated with serum DHEAS concentrations. Genes at or near these genetic variants include BCL2L11, ARPC1A, ZKSCAN5, TRIM4, HHEX, CYP2C9, BMF, and SULT2A1. These genes have various associations with steroid hormone metabolism—co-morbidities of ageing including type 2 diabetes, lymphoma, actin filament assembly, drug and xenobiotic metabolism, and zinc finger proteins—suggesting a wider functional role for DHEAS than previously thought.
PMCID: PMC3077384  PMID: 21533175
10.  Association between DHEAS and Bone Loss in Postmenopausal Women: A 15-Year Longitudinal Population-Based Study 
Calcified Tissue International  2011;89(4):295-302.
Our aim was to examine the association between serum dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) at baseline and BMD change at the femoral neck (FN) and lumbar spine (LS) in postmenopausal women during a 15-year follow-up. All participants were from the Chingford Study. BMD at the FN and LS were measured eight times during the 15-year follow-up by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. DHEAS at baseline was measured using radioimmunoassay. Data on height, weight, and hormone-replacement therapy (HRT) status were obtained at each visit. Multilevel linear regression modeling was used to examine the association between longitudinal BMD change at the FN and LS and DHEAS at baseline. Postmenopausal women (n = 1,003) aged 45–68 years (mean 54.7) at baseline were included in the study. After adjustment for baseline age, estradiol, HRT, and BMI, BMD at the FN decreased on average 0.49% (95% CI 0.31–0.71%) per year; and the decline was slowed down by 0.028% per squared year. Increase of DHEAS (each micromole per liter) was associated with 0.49% less bone loss at the FN (95% CI 0.21–0.71%, P = 0.001). However, this strong association became slightly weaker over time. Similar but weaker results were obtained for LS BMD. Our data suggest that high serum DHEAS at baseline is associated with less bone loss at both FN and LS and this association diminishes over time. The nature of the association is unclear, but such an association implies that, in managing BMD loss, women might benefit from maintaining a high level of DHEAS.
PMCID: PMC3175043  PMID: 21789637
BMD; DHEAS; Osteoporosis; Longitudinal study; Postmenopausal
11.  Effect of dehydroepiandrosterone supplementation on bone mineral density, bone markers, and body composition in older adults 
We present results of a randomized, placebo-controlled trial to examine the effect of 50 mg daily oral DHEA supplementation for one year on bone mineral density (BMD), bone metabolism and body composition in 225 healthy adults aged 55 to 85 years.
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) levels decline dramatically with age, concurrent with the onset of osteoporosis, suggesting a role for DHEA supplementation in preventing age-related bone loss.
We conducted a randomized, placebo-controlled trial to examine the effect of 50 mg daily oral DHEA supplementation for one year on bone mineral density (BMD), bone metabolism and body composition in 225 healthy adults aged 55 to 85 years.
DHEA treatment increased serum DHEA and DHEA sulfate levels to concentrations seen in young adults. Testosterone, estradiol and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) levels increased in women (all p<0.001), but not men, receiving DHEA. Serum C-terminal telopeptide of type-1 collagen levels decreased in women (p=0.03), but not men, whereas bone-specific alkaline phosphatase levels were not significantly altered in either sex. After 12 months, there was a positive effect of DHEA on lumbar spine BMD in women (p=0.03), but no effect was observed for hip, femoral neck or total body BMD, and no significant changes were observed at any site among men. Body composition was not affected by DHEA treatment in either sex.
Among older healthy adults, daily administration of 50 mg of DHEA has a modest and selective beneficial effect on BMD and bone resorption in women, but provides no bone benefit for men.
PMCID: PMC2435090  PMID: 18084691
Body composition; Bone metabolism; Bone mineral density (BMD); Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) levels; Placebo-controlled trial; Testosterone
12.  Cardiovascular Disease Is Associated with Greater Incident Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate Decline in the Oldest Old: The Cardiovascular Health Study All Stars Study 
To describe cross-sectional and longitudinal associations with dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) and change in DHEAS with age.
Longitudinal cohort study.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Cardiovascular Health Study All Stars study participants assessed in 2005/06 (N =989, mean age 85.2, 63.5% women, 16.5% African American).
Health characteristics were assessed in 2005/06 according to DHEAS level, mean DHEAS and DHEAS change across age categories were tested, and linear and logistic regression was used to identify factors present in 1996/97 associated with continuous and categorical DHEAS change.
Mean ± standard deviation DHEAS was 0.555 ± 0.414 μg/mL in 1996/97 and 0.482 ± 0.449 μg/mL in 2005/06 for women and 0.845 ± 0.520 μg/mL in 1996/97 and 0.658 ± 0.516 μg/mL in 2005/06 for men. In 2005/06, DHEAS was lower in women and subjects with cardiovascular disease (CVD) and chronic pulmonary disease and higher for African Americans and subjects with hypertension and high cholesterol. Mean DHEAS change was greater in men (− 0.200 μg/mL) than in women (− 0.078 μg/mL) (P<.001). Each 1-year increase in age attenuated the effect of male sex by 0.01 μg/mL (P =.009), abolishing the sex difference in DHEAS change by age 79. Presence of CVD before the study period was associated with greater absolute DHEAS change (β = − 0.04 μg/mL, P =.04) and with the fourth quartile of DHEAS change versus the first to third quartiles (odds ratio =1.46, 95% confidence interval =1.03–2.05).
DHEAS change continues into very old age, is not homogenous, is affected by sex, and is associated with prevalent CVD. Future studies should investigate factors that might accelerate DHEAS decline.
PMCID: PMC2880808  PMID: 20163485
dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate; cardiovascular disease; gender; aging
13.  Association of Adrenal Function and Disease Severity in Community-Acquired Pneumonia 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e99518.
Rapid and accurate risk stratification in patients with community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) is an unmet clinical need. Cortisol to dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) ratio was put forward as a prognostic marker in sepsis. We herein validated the prognostic value of the adrenal hormones DHEA, DHEA-Sulfate (DHEAS), cortisol/DHEA-, cortisol/DHEAS- and DHEA/DHEAS – ratios in patients with CAP.
We assessed severity of illness using the pneumonia severity index (PSI) and measured adrenal hormone concentrations in 179 serum samples of prospectively recruited patients hospitalized with CAP. We calculated spearman rank correlation, logistic regression analysis and Kaplan Meier curves to study associations of adrenal hormones and outcomes.
There was a significant correlation between PSI score and total cortisol (r = 0.24, p = 0.001), DHEAS (r = −0.23, p = 0.002), cortisol/DHEA (r = 0.23, p = 0.003), cortisol/DHEAS (r = 0.32, p = <0.0001) and DHEA/DHEAS (r = 0.20, p = 0.009). In age and gender adjusted logistic regression analysis, cortisol (OR: 2.8, 95% CI: 1.48–5.28) and DHEA (OR: 2.62, 95% CI: 1.28–5.34), but not DHEAS and the different ratios were associated with all-cause mortality. The discriminatory accuracy of cortisol and DHEA in ROC analysis (area under the curve) was 0.74 and 0.61. In Kaplan Meier analysis, patients in the highest deciles of cortisol and DHEA (p = 0.005 and p = 0.015), and to a lesser extent of cortisol/DHEAS ratio (p = 0.081) had a higher risk of death.
Cortisol, DHEAS and their ratios correlate with CAP severity, and cortisol and DHEA predict mortality. Adrenal function in severe pneumonia may be an important factor for CAP outcomes.
PMCID: PMC4049821  PMID: 24910975
14.  Low dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate is associated with increased risk of ischemic stroke among women 
Stroke; a journal of cerebral circulation  2013;44(7):10.1161/STROKEAHA.111.000485.
Background and Purpose
Previous research suggests greater risk of coronary heart disease with lower levels of the adrenal steroid dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS). No studies have examined the association between DHEAS and risk for ischemic stroke. DHEAS may influence ischemic stroke risk through atherosclerotic related mechanisms (endothelial function and smooth muscle cell proliferation) or insulin resistance.
Between 1989-1990, 32,826 women without prior stroke in the Nurses’ Health Study, an observational cohort, provided blood samples and were followed for cardiovascular events. Among this sample, using a nested-case control design, 461 ischemic strokes confirmed by medical records through 2006. Cases were matched to controls free of stroke at the time of the index case and by age, ancestry, menopausal status, postmenopausal hormone use, smoking status and date of sample collection. Multivariable conditional logistic regression was utilized.
Median DHEAS levels did not differ between cases (median=58.7) and controls (median=66.0; p-value=0.10). Conditional on matching factors, the lowest DHEAS quartile exhibited a relative risk (RR) of 1.30 for ischemic stroke (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.88-1.94), compared with the highest quartile and marginally unchanged when adjusted for confounders (RR=1.33; 95%CI: 0.87-2.02). When modeled as a binary variable dichotomized at the lowest quartile, women with low DHEAS (≤the lowest quartile) had a significantly increased multivariable adjusted risk of ischemic stroke compared to those with higher levels (RR=1.41; 95%CI: 1.03-1.92).
Lower DHEAS levels were associated with a greater risk of ischemic stroke, even after adjustment for potential confounders. These novel observations warrant confirmation in other populations.
PMCID: PMC3811081  PMID: 23704104
Ischemic stroke; dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate
15.  Association of Serum Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate and Cognition in Older Adults: Sex Steroid, Inflammatory, and Metabolic Mechanisms 
Neuropsychology  2013;27(3):356-363.
Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) levels and cognitive function decline with age, and a role for DHEAS in supporting cognition has been proposed. Higher DHEAS levels may be associated with better cognitive performance, although potential mechanisms for this relationship are not well established.
We performed a cross-sectional study of the relationship between serum DHEAS and three aspects of cognition—executive function, working memory, and processing speed—in 49 men and 54 women, aged 60–88 years, with low serum DHEAS levels. We examined three potential mechanisms of DHEAS action—sex hormone sufficiency, inflammatory status, and glucose regulation.
After adjustment for multiple covariates, higher serum DHEAS levels were associated with better working memory (standardized beta coefficient 0.50, p < .05), with a trend toward better executive function (standardized beta coefficient 0.37, p < .10) in men only. There was a nonsignificant trend toward a negative association between levels of tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα) and working memory in the combined population (standardized beta coefficient −0.22, p < .10). None of the glucoregulatory measures was associated with cognitive function.
The relationship between DHEAS and cognition is complex and differs by sex and cognitive domain. This study supports the need for further investigations of the sex-specific effects of DHEAS on cognition and its underlying mechanisms of action.
PMCID: PMC4316210  PMID: 23688217
dehydroepiandrosterone; DHEAS; cognition; aging; executive function
16.  Methodological Considerations in Use of the Cortisol/DHEA(S) Ratio in Adolescent Populations 
Psychoneuroendocrinology  2013;38(11):10.1016/j.psyneuen.2013.06.024.
The cortisol/DHEA(S) ratio has demonstrated utility in studies of HPA activity and psychopathology. However, use of the cortisol/DHEA(S) ratio in adolescent populations requires additional consideration of differential changes in DHEA(S) and cortisol during the course of puberty. This study examines the relationship between pubertal status and individual cortisol and DHEAS levels as well as with the cortisol/DHEAS ratio.
Morning salivary cortisol and urinary DHEAS levels were obtained for 267 young adolescents at three time points, each approximately one year apart. Growth curve modeling and repeated measures ANOVA were used to assess the effect of adrenal development on individual hormone levels and on the total ratio.
Pubic hair development was a significant predictor of change over time in DHEAS but not cortisol. Development was also a significant predictor of the cortisol/DHEAS ratio when raw cortisol and DHEAS values were used.
Our findings indicate that, when DHEAS levels were adjusted to control for pubertal status, the ratio demonstrated stability over time. This finding is in line with the hypothesis that the ratio may tap stable individual differences in HPA functioning.
PMCID: PMC3812358  PMID: 23867118
Cortisol; DHEA; DHEAS; ratio; HPA axis; adolescent; puberty; adrenarche
17.  Predicting mortality with biomarkers: a population-based prospective cohort study for elderly Costa Ricans 
Little is known about adult health and mortality relationships outside high-income nations, partly because few datasets have contained biomarker data in representative populations. Our objective is to determine the prognostic value of biomarkers with respect to total and cardiovascular mortality in an elderly population of a middle-income country, as well as the extent to which they mediate the effects of age and sex on mortality.
This is a prospective population-based study in a nationally representative sample of elderly Costa Ricans. Baseline interviews occurred mostly in 2005 and mortality follow-up went through December 2010. Sample size after excluding observations with missing values: 2,313 individuals and 564 deaths. Main outcome: prospective death rate ratios for 22 baseline biomarkers, which were estimated with hazard regression models.
Biomarkers significantly predict future death above and beyond demographic and self-reported health conditions. The studied biomarkers account for almost half of the effect of age on mortality. However, the sex gap in mortality became several times wider after controlling for biomarkers. The most powerful predictors were simple physical tests: handgrip strength, pulmonary peak flow, and walking speed. Three blood tests also predicted prospective mortality: C-reactive protein (CRP), glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c), and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS). Strikingly, high blood pressure (BP) and high total cholesterol showed little or no predictive power. Anthropometric measures also failed to show significant mortality effects.
This study adds to the growing evidence that blood markers for CRP, HbA1c, and DHEAS, along with organ-specific functional reserve indicators (handgrip, walking speed, and pulmonary peak flow), are valuable tools for identifying vulnerable elderly. The results also highlight the need to better understand an anomaly noted previously in other settings: despite the continued medical focus on drugs for BP and cholesterol, high levels of BP and cholesterol have little predictive value of mortality in this elderly population.
PMCID: PMC3507767  PMID: 22694922
Mortality; Biomarkers; Costa Rica; Aging; Cardiovascular mortality; Death risk factors
18.  The effects of moderate alcohol supplementation on estrone sulfate and DHEAS in postmenopausal women in a controlled feeding study 
Nutrition Journal  2004;3:11.
We have demonstrated that moderate alcohol consumption (15 g/d, 30 g/d) for 8 weeks resulted in significantly increased levels of serum estrone sulfate and DHEAS in 51 postmenopausal women in a randomized, placebo-controlled trial. We now report on the relationships between serum estrone sulfate and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) levels after 4 weeks of moderate alcohol supplementation, and compare the results to the 8 weeks data to elucidate time-to-effect differences.
Postmenopausal women (n = 51) consumed 0 (placebo), 15 (1 drink), and 30 (2 drinks) g alcohol (ethanol)/ day for 8 weeks as part of a controlled diet in a randomized crossover design. Blood samples were drawn at baseline, at 4 weeks and at 8 weeks. Changes in estrone sulfate and DHEAS levels from placebo to 15 g and 30 g alcohol per day were estimated using linear mixed models.
Results and Discussion
At week 4, compared to the placebo, estrone sulfate increased an average 6.9% (P = 0.24) when the women consumed 15 g of alcohol per day, and 22.2% (P = 0.0006) when they consumed 30 g alcohol per day. DHEAS concentrations also increased significantly by an average of 8.0% (P < 0.0001) on 15 g of alcohol per day and 9.2% (P < 0.0001) when 30 g alcohol was consumed per day. Trend tests across doses for both estrone sulfate (P = 0.0006) and DHEAS (P < 0.0001) were significant. We found no significant differences between the absolute levels of serum estrone sulfate at week 4 versus week 8 (P = 0.32) across all doses. However, absolute DHEAS levels increased from week 4 to week 8 (P < 0.0001) at all three dose levels.
These data indicate that the hormonal effects due to moderate alcohol consumption are seen early, within 4 weeks of initiation of ingestion.
PMCID: PMC517945  PMID: 15353002
Alcohol; Hormones; Postmenopausal women
19.  In rats, oral oleoyl-DHEA is rapidly hydrolysed and converted to DHEA-sulphate 
BMC Pharmacology  2007;7:4.
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) released by adrenal glands may be converted to androgens and estrogens mainly in the gonadal, adipose, mammary, hepatic and nervous tissue. DHEA is also a key neurosteroid and has antiglucocorticoid activity. DHEA has been used for the treatment of a number of diseases, including obesity; its pharmacological effects depend on large oral doses, which effect rapidly wanes in part because of its short half-life in plasma. Since steroid hormone esters circulate for longer periods, we have studied here whether the administration of DHEA oleoyl ester may extend its pharmacologic availability by keeping high circulating levels.
Tritium-labelled oleoyl-DHEA was given to Wistar male and female rats by gastric tube. The kinetics of appearance of the label in plasma was unrelated to sex; the pattern being largely coincident with the levels of DHEA-sulfate only in females, and after 2 h undistinguishable from the results obtained using labelled DHEA gavages; in the short term, practically no lipophilic DHEA label was found in plasma. After 24 h only a small fraction of the label remained in the rat organs, with a different sex-related distribution pattern coincident for oleoyl- and free- DHEA gavages. The rapid conversion of oleoyl-DHEA into circulating DHEA-sulfate was investigated using stomach, liver and intestine homogenates; which hydrolysed oleoyl-DHEA optimally near pH 8. Duodenum and ileum contained the highest esterase activities. Pure hog pancreas cholesterol-esterase broke down oleoyl-DHEA at rates similar to those of oleoyl-cholesterol. The intestinal and liver esterases were differently activated by taurocholate and showed different pH-activity patterns than cholesterol esterase, suggesting that oleoyl-DHEA can be hydrolysed by a number of esterases in the lumen (e.g. cholesterol-esterase), in the intestinal wall and the liver.
The esterase activities found may condition the pharmacological availability (and depot effect) of orally administered steroid hormone fatty acid esters such as oleoyl-DHEA. The oral administration of oleoyl-DHEA in order to extend DHEA plasma availability has not been proved effective, since the ester is rapidly hydrolysed, probably in the intestine itself, and mainly converted to DHEA-sulfate at least in females.
PMCID: PMC1831771  PMID: 17346356
20.  Association of sex steroids, gonadotropins, and their trajectories with clinical cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality in elderly men from the Framingham Heart Study 
Clinical endocrinology  2013;78(4):629-634.
Emerging data from longitudinal studies suggests that low sex steroid concentrations in men are associated with increased cardiovascular risk and mortality. The impact of longitudinal trajectory patterns from serial sex steroid and gonadotropin measurements on the observed associations is unknown to date.
We prospectively evaluated 254 elderly men (mean age: 75.5 years) of the Framingham Heart Study with up to four serial measurements of serum total testosterone (TT), dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS), follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), and total estradiol (EST); and constructed age- and multivariable-adjusted Cox proportional hazard regression models relating baseline hormone concentrations and their mean, slope, and variation over time (modelled as continuous and categorized into quartiles) to the incidence of clinical cardiovascular disease (CVD) and all-cause mortality at 5-years and 10-years of follow-up.
We observed no association between baseline concentrations of sex steroids, gonadotropins, and their trajectories with incident clinical CVD over 5-years and 10-years follow-up, respectively. Although higher baseline TT concentrations were associated with lower mortality risk at 5-years (hazard ratio per quartile increment, 0.74; 95% confidence interval, 0.56 – 0.98), correction for multiple statistical testing (p <0.005) rendered this association statistically non-significant. Repeat analyses at the 10-year follow-up time point also demonstrated no significant association between sex steroids, gonadotropins, or their trajectories and mortality.
Investigating longitudinal trajectory patterns of serial sex steroid and gonadotropin measurements, the present study found no consistent associations with incident clinical CVD and all-cause mortality risk in elderly men in the community.
PMCID: PMC4161203  PMID: 22901104
sex steroids; gonadotropins; testosterone; men; cardiovascular disease; trajectories; longitudinal; Framingham Heart Study
21.  Effects of Long-term Administration of the Antiaging Hormone Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate on Rat Prostates and Testes as Androgen-Dependent Organs 
Korean Journal of Urology  2013;54(3):199-203.
This study aimed to determine the effects of the long-term use of dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) on rat prostates and testes as well as on serum testosterone and DHEAS levels.
Materials and Methods
Thirty male rats aged 4 to 5 months were studied. A DHEAS suspension of 5 mg/kg per rat was administered orally to the 15 rats in the experimental group 5 times a week, whereas saline was administered concurrently to the 15 rats in the control group. Intracardiac blood samples were drawn to determine hormone levels, and histological samples of prostate and testes were evaluated under light microscopy.
At the end of the 6-month study period, histological examinations performed on prostate preparations showed that the atrophy score of the experimental group was significantly lower than the scores of the sham and control groups (p<0.001 and p<0.001, respectively). The serum total testosterone and DHEAS levels of the rats in the study group were significantly increased (p<0.001).
In our study, we determined that the long-term use of DHEAS does not have any detrimental effects on the prostate or the testis; on the contrary, it protects the prostate from atrophy, which is imperative for the continuation of fertility as well as for increasing serum testosterone and DHEAS levels.
PMCID: PMC3604575  PMID: 23524493
Aging; Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate; Prostate; Testis
22.  Clinical correlates of sex steroids and gonadotropins in men over the late adulthood : the Framingham Heart Study 
Low serum concentrations of sex steroids and gonadotropins in men have been associated with increased cardiometabolic risk and mortality, but the clinical correlates of these hormones in men over the late adulthood are less clearly understood.
We analyzed up to five serial measurements of total testosterone (TT), dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS), follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), and total estradiol (EST) in older men in the original cohort of the Framingham Heart Study to determine the short- (2-years; 1,165 person-observations in 528 individuals) and long-term (up to 10-years follow-up; 2,520 person-observations in 835 individuals with mean baseline age: 71.2 years) clinical correlates of these sex steroids and gonadotropins using multilevel modelling and Generalized Estimating Equations.
Age, body mass index, and pre-existing type 2 diabetes were inversely related to long-term TT concentrations, whereas higher systolic blood pressure showed a positive association. Furthermore, age and pre-existing cardiovascular disease (CVD) were inversely and HDL cholesterol concentrations positively associated with long-term DHEAS concentrations. Analyses of short-term changes revealed age was inversely related to DHEAS, but positively related to FSH and LH concentrations.
Our community-based study identified modifiable correlates of decreasing TT and DHEAS concentrations in elderly men, suggesting that maintenance of a low CVD risk factor burden may mitigate the age-related decline of these hormones over the late adulthood.
PMCID: PMC3434249  PMID: 22640232
sex steroids; gonadotropins; testosterone; aging male; Framingham Heart Study
23.  Dehydroepiandrosterone Restoration of Growth Hormone Gene Expression in Aging Female Rats, in Vivo and in Vitro: Evidence for Actions via Estrogen Receptors 
Endocrinology  2005;146(12):5176-5187.
A decline in dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and GH levels with aging may be associated with frailty and morbidity. Little is known about the direct effects of DHEA on somatotropes. We recently reported that 17β-estradiol (E2), a DHEA metabolite, stimulates the expression of GH in vitro in young female rats. To test the hypothesis that DHEA restores function in aging somatotropes, dispersed anterior pituitary (AP) cells from middle-aged (12–14 months) or young (3–4 months) female rats were cultured in vitro with or without DHEA or E2 and fixed for immunolabeling or in situ hybridization. E2 increased the percentage of AP cells with GH protein or mRNA in the aged rats to young levels. DHEA increased the percentages of somatotropes (detected by GH protein or mRNA) from 14–16 ± 2% to 29–31 ± 3% (P ≤0.05) and of GH mRNA (detected by quantitative RT-PCR) only in aging rats. To test DHEA’s in vivo effects, 18-month-old female rats were injected with DHEA or vehicle for 2.5 d, followed by a bolus of GHRH 1 h before death. DHEA treatment increased serum GH 1.8-fold (7 ± 0.5 to 12 ± 1.3 ng/ml; P = 0.02, by RIA) along with a similar increase (P = 0.02) in GH immunolabel. GHRH target cells also increased from 11 ± 1% to 19 ± 2% (P = 0.03). Neither GH nor GHRH receptor mRNAs levels were changed. To test the mechanisms behind DHEA’s actions, AP cells from aging rats were treated with DHEA with or without inhibitors of DHEA metabolism. Trilostane, aminogluthemide, or ICI 182,780 completely blocked the stimulatory effects of DHEA, suggesting that DHEA metabolites may stimulate aging somatotropes via estrogen receptors.
PMCID: PMC1868401  PMID: 16150906
AP, Anterior pituitary; DHEA, dehydroepiandrosterone; E2, 17β-estradiol; ER, estrogen receptor; GHRH R, GHRH receptor; HPRT, hypoxanthine guanine phosphoribosyltransferase; 3β-HSD, 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase; IOD, integrated optical density; ITS, insulin, transferrin, sodium selenite, and BSA; QRT-PCR, quantitative RT-PCR
24.  Administration of Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) Enhances Visual-Spatial Performance in Post-Menopausal Women 
Behavioral neuroscience  2011;125(5):742-752.
The current paper examines the effect of administering Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) on visual-spatial performance in post-menopausal women (N=24, ages 55-80). The concurrent reduction of serum DHEA levels and visual-spatial performance in this population, coupled with the documented effects of DHEA’s androgenic metabolites on visual-spatial performance, suggest that DHEA administration may enhance visual-spatial performance. The current experiment used a double-blind placebo-controlled crossover design in which 50 mg of oral DHEA was administered daily in the drug condition to explore this hypothesis. Performance on the Mental Rotation, Subject-Ordered Pointing, Fragmented Picture Identification, Perceptual Identification, Same-Different Judgment, and Visual Search tasks and serum levels of DHEA, DHEAS, testosterone, estrone and cortisol were measured in the DHEA and placebo conditions. In contrast to prior experiments using the current methodology that did not demonstrate effects of DHEA administration on episodic and short-term memory tasks, the current experiment demonstrated large beneficial effects of DHEA administration on Mental Rotation, Subject-Ordered Pointing, Fragmented Picture Identification, Perceptual Identification and Same-Different Judgment. Moreover, DHEA administration enhanced serum levels of DHEA, DHEAS, testosterone and estrone, and regression analyses demonstrated that levels of DHEA and its metabolites were positively related to cognitive performance on the visual-spatial tasks in the DHEA condition
PMCID: PMC3715689  PMID: 21942436
Dehydroepiadrosterone (DHEA); post-menopausal women; cognition; visual-spatial tasks; androgens
25.  Lower Serum DHEAS levels are associated with a higher degree of physical disability and depressive symptoms in middle-aged to older African American women 
Maturitas  2007;57(4):347-360.
Changes in androgen levels and associations with chronic disease, physical and neuropsychological function and disability in women over the middle to later years of life are not well understood and have not been extensively studied in African-American women.
The present cross-sectional analysis reports such levels and associations in community dwelling, African American women aged 49 – 65 years from St. Louis, Missouri.
A home-based physical examination and a health status questionnaire were administered to randomly sampled women. Body composition (DEXA), lower limb and hand-grip muscle strength, physical and neuropsychological function and disability levels were assessed. Blood was drawn and assayed for total testosterone (T), sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate (DHEAS), oestradiol (E2), adiponectin, leptin, triglycerides, glucose, C-reactive protein (CRP) and cytokine receptors (sIL2r, sIL6r, sTNFr1 & sTNFr2). Multiple linear regression modelling was used to identify the best predictors of testosterone, DHEAS and Free Androgen Index (T/SHBG).
Seventy-four percent of women were menopausal and a quarter of these were taking oestrogen therapy. DHEAS and E2 declined between the ages of 49 and 65 years, whereas total T, SHBG and FAI remained stable. Total T and DHEAS levels were strongly correlated. In this population sample there were no independent associations of either total T or FAI with indicators of functional limitations, disability or clinically relevant depressive symptoms. Unlike total T and FAI, lower DHEAS levels was independently associated with both higher IADL scores (indicating a higher degree of physical disability) and higher CESD scores (indicating a higher degree of clinically relevant depressive symptoms).
There is an age-related decline in serum DHEAS in African-American women. Lower DHEAS levels appear to be associated with a higher degree of physical disability and depressive symptoms in this population.
PMCID: PMC2041800  PMID: 17451893

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